Audi RS 4 2.9 TFSI Quattro Carbon Edition
We expected great things from the Audi RS 4. Yet it still managed to exceed those expectations. This is a car completely without compromise. Jaw-dropping looks, blistering performance and exceptional handling blend seamlessly with everyday usability and family-friendly practicality. £76,000 is a lot of money, but also £20k less than an RS 6. So the RS 4 is a relative bargain.
Whereas Audi ‘S’ cars have always been somewhat understated, the ‘RS’ cars are more extrovert when in demonstrating strength and power. The RS 4 Carbon Edition is no exception.
Our test car was finished in Sonoma Green. Whilst we absolutely loved it, others were not so sure; it is a bit of a marmite colour. We found it sophisticated, and harmonious with the carbon accents.
There are quite a lot of carbon accents too. The bottom edge of the front bumper, the centre of the side skirts, the wing mirrors and the rear diffuser are all finished in the stuff. This is in addition to matt aluminium trim, which highlights the glossiness of the carbon fibre, and of the Sonoma Green metallic paint.
At the front, the word ‘quattro’ is prominent at the bottom of the grille surround, and the gaping honeycomb grille looks angry. Sharp, angular headlamps feature signature LED daytime running lights.
Broad arches front and back give a muscular feel to the RS 4, like it’s bulging at the seams ready to be unleased.
The Carbon Edition gets unique 20-inch alloy wheels, which fill the arches perfectly. Finished in a two-tone matt black and gloss-milled aluminium, they co-ordinate with the matt aluminium styling pack.
At the back the gargantuan oval exhausts are the first to grab your eye. There is no subtlety in them whatsoever; you could probably fit your head in them. A roof spoiler is extended by gloss black trim down either side of the rear window, whilst the tail lights are a softer shape than at the front.
The RS 4 passes the shop window test with ease. You can’t help but smile when you come back to it in a car park, if you can see it through the crowd that is…
Open the door and notice the crisp ‘Audi Sport’ logo projecting onto the floor by your feet. This, along with the illuminated scuff plates brandishing ‘RS 4’, is amongst the subtler details that culminate in a wonderfully-impressive cabin.
For the RS 4 Carbon Edition the Nappa leather super sports seats are finished in black with red stitching. With the honeycomb quilting to match that boisterous front grille they look tremendous.
Door cards front and back are finished in alcantara; synonymous with sports and performance cars. More red stitching features on the door grab handles, centre armrest and even the side of the centre console.
Sitting in the hot seat, a chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel urges you to curl your fingers around its soft, perforated leather. There’s a head-up display as you look to the road, and Audi’s innovative Virtual Cockpit as you glance down.
It features an RS-specific display in the form of an oversized rev counter in the centre of the 12.3-inch display, with a digital speed displayed within. To the left, a G-force meter. To the right, boost and power usage information.
The beauty of this display is that it is effective even in your peripheral vision, which is useful when pedalling the RS 4. The rev counter lights up amber as you approach the rev limiter, and flashes red once you hit it.
The RS 4 Carbon Edition features delectable carbon inlays throughout. These add to the sense of occasion as you sit there, and the customisable LED ambient lighting allows you to set the tone in the cabin. We went for an aggressive red.
Material quality is top-notch, assembled with the expected German precision. This is a well-designed cabin with no niggles and no flaws. You could, and will want to, spend hours in it.
Hiding beneath the carbon fibre engine cover is a 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 petrol engine. Forget any concerns you had about the RS 4 ditching two of its eight cylinder, this new engine is an absolute gem.
Power is a not-insignificant 450PS, available from 5,700-6,700rpm. What’s more, a monumental 600Nm of torque is available from just 1,900rpm, all the way to 5,000rpm. That equates to performance serious enough to worry just about any car on the road.
With its Quattro all-wheel drive system and an 8-speed tiptronic gearbox, the RS 4 will go from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and will effortlessly reach its electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. And thanks to the sports exhaust, standard on the RS 4 Carbon Edition, it will do so on a wave of shouty V6 barking.
A quick word on that bark. It’s a wonderful sound. The pops when you change up in anger are tremendously satisfying. The chatter from the exhaust on overrun may annoy neighbours but is incredibly pleasing from the driver’s seat.
In ‘Comfort’ mode the RS 4 is a tame animal. The exhaust valves are closed, and the throttle response is gentle and forgiving. You could just as well be at the wheel of a normal A4. ‘Dynamic’ mode unleashes the full-bore, hardcore RS 4 that will hunt down Ferraris and embarrass most cars on the road.
Gear changes are instant, meaning there is no let up from the powerful acceleration. With launch control, the RS 4 subjects you to 1.1 G of acceleration, which means you properly feel it in your stomach. It’s addictive, and gets the adrenaline pumping.
This is thanks in part to the Quattro system. No power is being wasted, even in damp conditions. In the real world of Britain, where it often rains, that’s important.
When it comes to road-holding ability, the Audi RS 4 is breathtakingly competent. Without question your limit of driving talent will be exceeded before the car’s limit of grip and composure will be.
The level of grip available from the Quattro all-wheel drive system is staggering. We had a mixed week in terms of weather, and therefore road conditions. But the RS 4 was completely unfazed. Driving, even quickly, was not dramatic in any way. For a car as fast as this the usability of the power, even with tricky road conditions, is a testament to the engineering brilliance of Audi and their RS boffins.
So often you will see car reviews describing numb steering, but not this time. We could tell exactly what was going on underfoot. Entering a corner known to be very slippery, you could feel the power being shifted to the rear. This prevented understeer in a progressive, controlled way. It’s nicely weighted too, especially in ‘Dynamic’ mode.
The ride is spot on; comfortable enough to enjoy a long motorway journey but firm and composed on bumpy, twisty B roads. Any bumps that do manage to reach the driver are dispelled by the seats’ massage function anyway.
There is an optional suspension, the RS Sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control. It costs £2,000 and is a non-electronic shock absorber system that reduces pitch and roll. It sounds very clever but given how good the standard setup is it may be overkill.
Similarly the standard brakes are enough to pull your face away from your skull. The £6,000 carbon ceramic option may be useful if you frequent the race track, but I’d bet that many RS 4 owners won’t.
Ordinarily, the section on economy would be of little interest for a car that produces 450PS. But for the RS 4 it is a particularly relevant aspect. In order to be a perfect all-rounder, the Audi must refrain from emptying its fuel tank every 30 yards.
The official fuel consumption figure is 32.1mpg on the combined cycle. And forget the scepticism; on more relaxed runs we got very close to this figure. To own such a powerful car, that sort of return would be more than satisfactory.
CO2 emissions are 200g/km with the 20-inch Carbon Edition wheels. As a result first year VED on the RS 4 is £1,240, which is absorbed into the £72,215 price tag. Years 2-6 are £450 (which includes the £310 surcharge).
There are several factors which help improve the RS 4’s efficiency. Choosing the ‘Comfort’ drive mode relaxes the drivetrain, making it easier to drive more economically.
The RS 4 features start/stop technology to save fuel in traffic. The 8-speed tiptronic gearbox keeps the revs down on the motorway, but with the mountain of torque available you won’t struggle to overtake. Trust us.
It’s all well and good having a car that can sprint to 62mph in 4 seconds, but if it’s a pain in the backside for the other 99% of the time you’d struggle to justify ownership.
Despite its unbelievable performance, the RS 4 is about as easy to live with as a car can be. Despite having all sorts of sports suspension and big exhausts, you can hitch a trailer and tow up to 2,100kg. Now that’s the reason we love estate cars.
Adults can get in and out of the back fine, although the middle seat isn’t the most comfortable due to restricted legroom. The boot has 505 litres of space with the rear seats up, and benefits from a large hatch. There’s no reason why you couldn’t fold the rear seats down and pop to B&Q for some building supplies. I’d like to see someone in an M3 saloon do that…
The RS 4 also feels smaller on the road than the RS 6 did, in a good way. Driving through some villages and along some tighter B-roads was a nervy experience in the RS 6.
The RS 4 feels that bit more comfortable, so you don’t spend the entire time breathing in, nor do you have to look as hard to find a parking space.
It’s very comfortable too. On a long drive you can sink into your sumptuous sport seat and enjoy a relaxing massage. It really helps keep you fresh on a long drive.
In our week with the RS 4, it never let us down. There was nothing we could throw at it that it couldn’t do. That’s impressive in any car, but even more so in a car that can also give a few supercars a fright.
As you would hope of a car the calibre of the RS 4, it is pretty generously equipped. That’s not to say the specification is comprehensive, as there are still options available should you wish to give your RS 4 a little bit more.
In terms of performance, which is at the forefront of the RS 4’s appeal, you get a sports suspension, Quattro with sport differential and Audi Drive Select as standard. The Carbon Edition benefits from the delightful sports exhaust too.
The Nappa leather super sports seats are heated and electrically adjustable. They also feature the luxurious lumbar massage function.
For an enjoyable driving experience in the cabin, there’s 3-zone climate control and LED ambient lighting. Little touches like the illuminated door sill trims are particularly effective.
Safety is just as important as performance. Audi Pre-sense City automatic braking system is standard, as is multi-collision brake assist and blind spot warning system.
Other goodies include the wonderful Audi Virtual Cockpit. It features an RS-specific display in the form of a huge central rev counter with boost gauge and G-force meter on either side.
The optional head-up display (£900) which projects various information in front of the driver and is particularly easy to adjust.
The best option on our car was the Comfort and Sound pack. For £1,295 you get complete keyless entry with hands-free tailgate operation, a rear-view camera and a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.
Driver Assistance Pack includes several systems, most notably adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane assist and camera-based traffic sign recognition. At £1,250 it is well worth the money.
Wireless charging facility adds £325, driver’s seat memory function is £200 and folding auto-dimming mirrors with memory function (if seat memory opted for) is £125.
Value For Money
Put simply, the RS 4 is a bargain. Now before angry mobs descend on us, let us explain why that’s the case.
You have here a car that can do absolutely anything. It can be crammed with luggage and take the whole family on a holiday, or tow your rally car or caravan. It could drive you all the way to the Nürburgring in comfort. And then it could go absolutely bonkers around the Nordschleife.
The price of the ‘regular’ RS 4 starts at £62,175. Bear in mind that the RS 6 Performance we tested last year cost £106,000. You can see why we’re leaning toward the word ‘bargain’. It’s all relative.
The Carbon Edition adds exactly £10,000, costing £72,175. For that you’re getting metallic paint (£645), 20-inch alloy wheels, albeit in an exclusive design (£2,000), sports exhaust (£1,200), red brake calipers (£400), privacy glass (£450), matrix LED headlights (£850) and the extended LED interior lighting (£100).
So we’re at £5,545 before we even touch on the carbon. Door mirrors (£1,200), engine cover (£500), and the styling pack (£4,450) feature on the exterior, with the carbon inlays (£950) finish off a beautiful interior.
So that means a total of £12,745, for an extra £10,000. Sounds like a good deal to us.
Researching the car prior to its arrival, we were undecided about the Carbon Edition. Would it be better to save yourself five grand and just spec the normal RS 4 with sports exhaust and some nice wheels?
But after seeing it up close and personal, we absolutely love the carbon detailing. It made the RS 4 feel even more special. The exclusive wheel design suits those flared arches perfectly.
The RS 4 Carbon Edition has knocked the RS 6 off our lottery list. It’s just that good.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.9-litre, V6 twin-turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||450PS at 5,700rpm – 6,700rpm|
|Max torque||600Nm at 1,900rpm – 5,000rpm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed tiptronic gearbox, Quattro all-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||58 litres|
|Fuel consumption||32.1mpg, combined cycle|
|Towing capacity||2,100kg braked / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||505 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£76,310|